Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Bakerton and Payneville.

Continuing with my efforts to capture images of the more obscure cemeteries where CWGC graves are to be found, I ventured forth to Bakerton/Payneville Cemetery outside of Springs. My original thoughts were that these were two distinctly seperate places, however, some homework revealed that actually they are a cemetery within a cemetery. Bakerton being the Hindu/Moslem cemetery, and Payneville being the African burial ground. Naturally they are miles from anywhere, but reasonably close to Brakpan to pay a return visit to Brenthurst Cemetery  and pop in at the derelict war memorial in Springs.

My first port of call however was at the Cosy Corner MOTH Shellhole in Brakpan to photograph the new Wall of Remembrance, that is now home to the original plaque from the mess that is the former garden of remembrance in Brakpan.

The MOTH Shellhole is a treasure trove of memorabilia and is well worth visiting if you have an interest in Delville Wood. A tree, grown from a seedling from a Hornbeam tree on the battlefield, grows in the grounds. Its a strange tangible link to that terrible battle. There is a proud heritage at that Shellhole, and by the looks of it, it is a thriving one.

Moving onwards to Bakerton, I had one CWGC grave to photograph,  and he was reasonably easy to find. This area of the cemetery is very well maintained and is still in use. Unfortunately I cannot say much about when it opened, but it must have been open in the early 1940's at a minimum. The Springs area does have a number of Native Military Corps graves in it, with the beautiful Palmietkuil South War Cemetery just up the road. 

Payneville however was a different ball game altogether. Its not a very large space,  but it is sparsely populated with headstones, and overpopulated with weeds and grass. Mounds and holes are not easy to spot and I nearly saw the ground from close up on quite a few occasions.

I had 2 CWGC graves to photograph, and had a rough idea where they were, but in reality, finding them in real time was a different story. Usually the headstones are very distinctive and I found the one reasonably easily, but the second was nowhere to be seen. I had rough GPS co-ordinates of the graves and changed to pedestrian mode to try find it, but even with a GPS I struck a blank. I did a block search in the area and eventually found the stone, but it had been broken in half. It was only recently that the CWGC graves had been cleaned up, and this was a recent break. There wasn't much to do but report the broken stone and head off to our next destination. I think that as long as I live I will never understand the logic of somebody that goes around breaking tombstones. If somebody can provide insight into this please drop me a comment.

Springs War Memorial was one of those mapbook finds. I spotted it when I was researching Palmietkuil in 2007, but couldn't find it on the ground at the time. There was this strange derelict dome structure on an island in the town, but surely that wasn't the memorial? 

Springs War Memorial in 2007
My gravehunting companion assured me that WAS the memorial, or should I say, what is left of it. The dome used to cover a tripod of rifles with a helmet, inscribed on the interior walls were the "Their Name Liveth Forevermore" reminders. Upright walls lined the pathway, with name plaques of the fallen, a fountain adding its melody to the tableau. That was then. This is now.

The only purpose that this derelict seems to serve now is to provide a shelter for the homeless, otherwise it is just a travesty that can get consigned to the scrapheap of history. In the nearly 4 years since I had visited here originally, nothing had been improved or done to rectify the situation. And, probably in 4 years time, things will be exactly the same as now. I wonder how many residents even have an idea what this derelict structure actually was? I know one thing, no remembering of the fallen is done in Springs anymore.

A last detour to photograph a Honey tank, and we were ready to head off to Brenthurst, but that's another story, for another day.


Monday, 12 December 2011

The Art of Cemetery Statuery. (2)

In which we visit a few other cemeteries to see what they have in the line of Statuery. This page is a continuation from the first part of this post.

Our journey in the quest for statues and angels now takes us to the East Rand where there is a particular gem of a cem called Primrose Cemetery. There are a lot of angels here, and a lot have been vandalised too

This particular piece pretty much dominates the angel experience of Primrose, she is huge, and dates either from 1909 or 1937 judging by the inscription.

This statue looks over a large family plot, and it is difficult to say what gender it is, interestingly enough, it is wearing shoes! many angels and statues are barefoot.

This classic beauty is on a grave dated 1904, and is really a beautiful work. Whether it is an off the shelf statue or not I do not know, but it is not a statue of mourning, it is more a celebration of a life. 

A 1937 off the shelf angel with a missing hand graces this pathway. She has somewhat of a disapproving look about her, but maybe it is because of her missing hand? 

The example above is on a 1930 grave, and she has a very different look to the conventional off the shelf angel, it is a very attractive statue, and not one that I have seen in other cemeteries. 

While technically not a statue, this wonderful headstone is a work of art on its own. The grave dates from 1927, and considering how long it has been standing is in a remarkable condition. 

Of course cherubs and children are well represented in Primrose, and I do have a few favourites. I am very fond of this work, but I am afraid that the stability of the piece is very poor. She is on the grave of a 15 year old who died in 1923. I suspect that she too may only a photograph in a family album, and a long forgotten grave in a cemetery.

And who knows how long ago it was when this pair were dislodged from their perch.

And it is time to leave Primrose and the many graves, angels and statues that make it their home.

The cemetery is in a mining area and as such reflects the lives and deaths of the working class people who lived around it. It is an old cemetery, and one of those faded ladies that has been a part of the landscape for many years. I won't say it is a favourite of mine, but I did enjoy gravehunting in it because there was a lot to find, and of course it had beautiful pieces of funeral art in it.

We now head north and west once again towards a cemetery called  Panorama Cemetery which is near Wilgeheuwel. It has probably the best collection of newer artwork that I have seen. It's a well maintained cemetery too, and one of my favourites. Unfortunately it does have a subsidence problem, so it seems to no longer be in regular use, but it has some wonderful imaginative work in it.

It is also home to what I call "the Panorama Ladies". Modern statues often done out in hues of brown or gold. The sort of thing Victorians would have frowned upon.

There are at least 8 of these life sized statues in the cemetery, and if that's not enough, one of them has a sting in her tail. A swarm of bees has set up home in the pedestal she stands on. I will not disclose which one it is though. Then there are "the sisters" which don't really need any explanation.

I have seen smaller cherubs in pairs on graves, but never a pair of full sized angels. In fact Panorama has another grave with twin angels on it. I think that is what I like about this cemetery, it has an eclectic mix of statues, ranging from the naked ladies right down to lions, cherubs and large eagles. 

My tour heads west once again to Randfontein and to Greenhills Cemetery which is more prone to headstones in the shape of rugby balls, cars and tires. Occasionally there are cherubs.

One little chap in a curious state of undress is a puzzle. Just how did he manage to loose an elbow?

and where are his pants?

And, as I was driving away I could not help noticing that somebody was giving me a rear look......

A look that is becoming quite popular is the large eagle. I have seen it in a number of cemeteries, as well as outside houses. And while it looks really impressive I don't know what the neighbours have to say about having a giant budgie next to them.

I want to make a quick diversion to Pretoria to show off one of the real gems that you can find in the old Church Street Cemetery. You cannot help but admire the magnificent statue of Burgher Desire De Villiers. Its a magnificent piece of work and should really be in a museum. There must be a story behind it somewhere.

He is in good company in Pretoria, because Paul Kruger is scowling close by. Unfortunately he is difficult to photograph at the best of times.

And then there is the debating squad. It is always great to see a group like this, especially when they are all different.

And of course there is this magnificent work below, which is actually quite intimidating now that I take a close look.

It is amazing what you can find in these cemeteries. I have not even touched on headstones in all their weird and wonderful shapes and permutations. Neither have I shown my complete collection, because space limitations on these blogs does become an issue, especially when the page is image intensive as a photo page tend to be.  
I do not always profess to understand the reasoning and motivation behind these statues and monuments, but the reality is that you need to view them in the context of the family and mourning.
It is also about never forgetting, although one day when everybody is gone only that statue will remain to bear silent witness. This is very true for  the grand Victorian garden cemeteries in the United Kingdom where complete mausoleums were built for a family and it is now a derelict ruin in an urban forest. I am still working on those pages, and it will take some time to get them finished.
Sadly the reality in South Africa is as such that many of the cemeteries are rapidly becoming no-go areas as safety becomes more of an issue and municipality inefficiency increases. Already we are seeing the wholesale theft of ironwork and masonry, and vandalism is on the rise. That is also true of the UK.  

And on that somewhat depressing note I will leave you with this cute find out near Fourways, a modern fairy, and indicative of the inroads non traditional figures are making all over.

DR Walker 2011-2015. Updated 19/05/2015

Thursday, 8 December 2011

SANRASM. 1 Year later.

When I first moved out to the West Rand my latent interest in trains became much greater because of the ease with which I could theoretically see them. There were also places to see that had them, and as such I was determined to catch up after so many years in the doldrums.  One of the places I really wanted to see was known as the "South African National Rail and Steam Museum" (aka SANRASM) out near Randfontein.
Sadly, I caught that organisation at the downturn, when it was being run into the ground through neglect by its moribund committee.
What followed was at least 3 years of frustration as the collection became more derelict and nothing was done. Everything came to a head with the death of the Chamdor Locomotive Site , it took a lot to retrieve the collection from the committee and the funds from the scrapping of Chamdor helped save what there is to see today.  It has been a year since work started on rationalising the collection and I have been monitoring work as it has gone forward.
This blog is about "Then and Now".  I am fortunate that I do have reasonably good access to the site and am glad to see that things are being done, I deplore the loss of many of the artifacts that were originally in the collection, but I do understand "why we are where we are today".  Kudos to the team that have been steadily working away at the equipment,  its a mammoth task to reverse 10 years of neglect and an exceptionally wet rainy season. However, I am confident that one day I will see this collection become the start of something greater. 

Class 14R-1704 in September 2010

Class 14R 1704 in December 2011
Unfortunately, a lot of restoration is cosmetic in nature. These locos have been stolen dry, they will never be able to run again, but that doesn't mean that they must look bad. Historically Class 19D-2644 is an important loco, and she languished for years, her smokebox obscured by trees. I saw her in  June this year and already she was looking better. 

Class 19D-2644 Wardale (aka Spooky). before painting

Class 19D-2644 after cosmetic restoration commenced,
Sanrasm had a unique collection of coaches, amongst them were a half balcony diner called "Phantom Pass" which was left to rot, and a much "newer" diner called "Shashi" which was also left to rot. Phantom is in a poor condition but they are working towards stabilising her until it can be decided what to do.

Phantom Pass. September 2010. No work has been done on her in years
The years of neglect have taken their toll on her and it will be difficult to restore her to her former glory. Restoration would have been so much easier if only somebody had done something years ago! Shashi suffered from severe water damage and her interior is in a very poor condition. However, compared to what she looked like in May 2009. 
May 2009. She looked much worse by September 2010.
Dec 2011, partly stripped of fittings and undergoing restoration.
It will take a lot of time, but eventually she will be restored. Fortunately she even has her kitchen coach on the site and it is hoped to mate them up together again one day. The kitchen coach suffered water damage and neglect like everything else on the site, but now her roof has been replaced and she is already looking better.

Kitchen Coach. Roof replaced.
 Amonsgt the other work that has been done is cosmetic restoration and repainting of 16DA-844.

Class 16DA-844. September 2011
December 2011.
Cosmetic restoration and painting of the Davenport Diesel formerly from North Site.

The Davenport Diesel from North Site.  May 2009.

Davenport. June 2011.
Painting of Class 6A-454 as well as Class 6A-473. Not too long ago 454 was still in steam, but she has lost so many fittings over the years that she may never move under her own steam again. 473 has lost her boiler cladding and smokebox front. Nobody could ever explain how that occurred.

Class 6A-454. December 2011.

Class 6A-473. August 2011.
The sad part is, how much was lost. The coaches at North Site that had not been scrapped were all burnt out, and many of the subs from South Site have been donating their wood to preserve what is left behind. I have reams of photographs of what never got this far, and those photographs all point to the person who thought that people would be interested in seeing a lot of rotten and derelict equipement. I am glad to see that the attitude has changed.

May 2009.
The same coach. December 2011.
There is still so much to be done, and with the rainy season upon us there will be even more difficulties, but I live in hope and will return next year to see  how things are looking. Hopefully I will see progress again, just as I have seen since last year.
Keep it up Geoff and his team.